Ever since its discovery in September of 2015, “Tabby’s star” has fascinated scientists and the public due to its mysterious behavior. Now, a new theory purports that there may be a simple reason for the unusual changes of this dimming star, one that merely involves dust.
Officially designated KIC 8462852 but colloquially named after its discoverer, Tabetha Boyajian, Tabby’s star is located about 1,500 light years from Earth. It is known and very much discussed because of the strange fluctuations in its brightness.
At some point, the dimming star decreased its light by up to 22 percent for days at a time. There is also a more subtle, long-term dimming that is just as difficult for scientists to explain.
The Cause of Tabby’s Star Dimming Still Up for Discussion?
This star’s popularity among the public may have come from the theory that a Dyson sphere could explain its odd behavior. This is a hypothetical device built by aliens to collect the star’s energy for their own use.
Researchers working with NASA’s Spitzer space telescope and the Swift mission, along with amateur astronomers working in a Belgian observatory, have actually investigated this theory. In doing so, they determined that the way in which the star dims is not consistent with how the orbit of a Dyson sphere would affect its brightness.
Instead, they propose a less mysterious but more logical and straightforward reason. Researchers believe that an uneven cloud of dust is orbiting the star. Also, its short dips in brightness might be caused by a particularly dense patch obscuring its view from the Earth.
Similar but alternative theories that have been proposed, until now, include a large, ringed planet or a belt of asteroids having the same effect. Yet another idea is that a world is being disintegrated as it is pulled into the star.
These may not satisfy sci-fi buffs, but don’t worry: so far they’re only theories, and Tabby’s star remains just as big of a mystery.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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